December 12 2017
Meet Rhonda-Marie and Steven Parke, two ultrarunners who discovered their love for each other through running.
I grew up as the chubby kid in a family full of runners. My parents and two sisters all ran. I have vivid memories of my dad coming home from work and heading out in frigid Midwestern winters wearing sneakers and a ski mask. I thought he was crazy.
In middle school, my dad would bring me to track practices. When you’re young, it’s difficult to like something that you’re terrible at. I was frustrated at myself for being so slow, and I quit as soon as I got to high school.
Over the next decade, I picked up running a few times in an effort to lose weight—but I never stuck with it, and this cemented my reputation as the unreliable, flighty daughter.
After I gave birth to my own son, however, I was hungry for a way to reconnect with myself. I found a half marathon five weeks away and did something completely out of character: I registered for the race. I knew that if I paid the fee, I would have to commit to training. My parents were skeptical. “Sure, sure,” they said.
During training, I finally understood what my family loved about running. I stopped judging myself and started focusing on the time outside as a way to relieve stress.
On race day, adrenaline pumped through my body. I had to walk the last four miles, but I finished. It was so special to know that I’d made my parents, who also ran that day, proud.
My dad is an incredibly nice guy, but he can be hard to please. This has given me a commonality with him, as well as with my mom and sisters. My commitment to racing has proved to my family that I’ve grown up. I love going to races with them and I know they feel the same way. It’s made us closer than ever before.